Ever since I was a kid, I always watched late night spook shows and that I like a good scare. Most of these shows featured mostly classics like Frankenstein, Dracula or the Japanese monster movies like Godzilla. When my Dad was stationed in Long Beach, California in the early 1970s, I stayed up on Friday nights to watch Fright Night with the Sinister Seymour who presented movie turkeys and was tormented by his arch nemesis, Banjo Billy. During my time in high school, I watched Bob Wilkins out of San Francisco where he presented mostly science fiction fare and commented on the movies in a wry manner while puffing on a cigar and rocking back and forth in his chair. Of course, I am not into the so-called “slasher” genre which seems to generate nothing but sadism on the screen.
Well, here we are in 2018 and I had the pleasure of going down to Dallas and hearing about how the redneck saved Hollywood. The presenter was Job Bob Briggs, the cowboy alias of the writer John Bloom who hosted Monstervision on TNT during the late 1990s. He held the event at the Texas Theater in the Oak Cliff area of the city. It is the same theater where in 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald was captured as he watched War is Hell with Van Heflin. I expected the usual talks about bad movies and how the film makers did all of the work. Instead, I was treated to a talk on the development of the redneck culture and that the Scottish Presbyterian John Knox was the first ever “redneck.” Briggs, led us down the path of history from the borderlands between Scotland and England to Ulster and then finally to Appalachia where many of the “rednecks” settled to escape the wrath of the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Over the centuries the hillbilly developed his own culture as he was isolated from the rest of society by living in the remote mountain regions far from the Tidewater areas of the Atlantic coast.
What was interesting was that Joe Bob Briggs came to the same conclusion as the renown historian Christopher Dawson in that the development of non-conformist, hillbilly culture and religion was due to the fact that formal religious training was far from their lands and that men decided to do their own preaching and developed their own hierarchical church system which led to unorthodox beliefs. With this background, Briggs then showed us the development of the hillbilly and redneck films which included films on car racing which developed from the time that moonshiners outran the cops in fast cars with clever driving.
It was a very educational night indeed and the two hours went by very fast. Those people who are serious students of cultural and film history should attend his talk. The show is not for everyone as Briggs shows some film clips that are rather violent. But for the most part, it was fun. So, let’s get eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’!!